I have to admit, work on my latest project, THE MERROW’S SONG, had stalled dismally. I knew the general theme of the story but the core of the story was eluding me. Which, naturally, did not sit well with my deep-seated depression, which is always lurking under the surface like some many-tentacled beast, waiting to snatch an unwary victim. So, I decided to sit down and at least write out a short biography of my main character, in the hopes that, in the process, I might get some spark of insight that would open up the story for me.
So, out comes the dice bag. “Dice?” you say. Yes, dice! Random number generators, if you prefer. Now, just what do dice and random number generation and writing have to do with one another? Some backstory is in order. Cue the flashback sound effects….
Anyone who knows anything about me knows what an avid role-playing gamer I am. For over 35 years now, I have been playing them all: D&D, AD&D, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, RoleMaster, Middle-Earth Role-Playing, and too many others to recall. (“Ah! Now we see where the dice came from!” you say. “But, with writing?”) Yes, with writing. RPGs are nothing more than stories we create as we play the game. The choices we make and the roll of the dice determine the direction the story. One of my favorite parts of RPGs was character creation. I loved creating interesting characters and then coming up with cool stories to explain their make-up and background, all in an effort to have a more exciting and enjoyable game experience. Well, I thought one day, why not do that with the characters for my stories?
Now, THE MERROW’S SONG started out as an inspiration from an friend’s piece of art she had created. I had the basic idea for a story to weave around this piece of art but could not get anywhere with it that was satisfying to me. I sat stumped and ever more depressed over the situation. So, last night I decided to just work on my main character’s biography, in the hopes that something there might spark an idea that would get me out of my creative funk.
Out came the dice bag. Out came the random character generation books and away I rolled, just writing down all of the results and not worrying about if any of it made any sense. When I was done, I sat back and looked at the totality of it all.
I was surprised by how many of the randomly generated information matched perfectly with concepts I have already decided on for my character. But what really surprised me was the information that I had generated for my character’s family. Here was where the breakthrough I needed occurred. Suddenly, it all made perfect sense! The information I had randomly generated for my character’s family provided the missing key I needed to unlock the story. And what a dramatic change it made. It was definitely one of those “face-palm” moments of “Why didn’t this occur to me in the first place?” It was like someone blowing up a dam on a river and releasing the flood. I had so many ideas flying through my head I couldn’t get them down on paper (or computer monitor) fast enough. I feel I have a much better idea of where the story is coming from, where it is going, and how I am going to get there. Now, all that remains is to put it into a form that someone, anyone, would be willing to read. We’ll see.